Bath City (1) 3 Chippenham Town (2) 2 – Vanarama National League South – Thursday 26 December 2019 – Twerton Park
Report by Kelston Koppite
Bath City twice came from behind to secure victory against 10-man Chippenham Town in the A4 Derby at a sodden Twerton Park. With the visitors leading by the odd goal in three at the break, second half goals from Adam Mann and Joe Raynes ensured that the Somerset side took the spoils.
City began sluggishly, and a lively Chippenham side were immediately on the front foot. A shot from distance by Tom Owen-Evans was high over Ryan Clarke’s crossbar, but the Bluebirds were in front after 5 minutes in spectacular fashion. George Rigg collected the ball 25 yards from goal, and unleashed a firm dipping shot that found the top corner of the net with Clarke well beaten.
Matters deteriorated further for the hosts on 9 minutes when Andy Watkins was forced from the field of play following a heavy tangle with Curtis McDonald inside the centre circle. He was replaced by Sam Pearson who went on to produce an influential contribution to the game.
City came close to a response in the 11th minute when Mann ran at the Town defence, only for his effort to strike the foot of Will Puddy’s post. However, the home side were back on terms on 13 minutes after a cross from the left was helped back across goal by Mann. The ball fell to Ryan Brunt six yards out, and the forward slid his shot beyond Puddy’s dive and into the back of the net.
Bath were now beginning to find their neat passing game, and Chippenham were being forced further back in defence. Raynes’ cross from the right in the 17th minute picked out Pearson, and the substitute’s acrobatic overhead kick flew just over Puddy’s bar.
The game remained open with the visitors continuing to pose a threat going forward and, indeed, they re-took the lead after 21 minutes, albeit in fortuitous circumstances. A corner was only partially cleared and, when the ball went back to Owen-Evans out wide on the left, his cross eluded everyone, including Clarke, and dropped into the far corner of the net.
Proceedings were becoming increasingly fractious and there was a flurry of bookings as matters were in danger of boiling over. The Romans pressed forward in search of another equaliser and, on 32 minutes, Tom Smith narrowly failed to reach an inviting curling cross from Brunt as the ball drifted wide of the far post. Puddy also did well to smother a loose ball inside a crowded 6-yard box following a corner kick.
With 7 minutes left on the clock before the interval, Chippenham had a golden opportunity to put the match beyond their hosts. Chris Zebroski crossed to the far post into the path of the onrushing Owen-Evans, and it took an outstanding blocking save from Clarke to prevent his side from going further behind.
City continued to push forward and Alex Hartridge’s low cross from the left flashed across the face of Puddy’s goalmouth with no-one able to apply a telling touch, and Pearson’s delivery from the same flank saw Raynes’ back-heeled effort fly straight into the keeper’s arms.
The second half began with the hosts in the ascendancy, and Noah Chilvers’ 49th minute free-kick picked out Smith inside the penalty area, but the midfielder was unable to find the target. Chilvers then had another shot from outside the box deflected away for a corner.
Parity was restored once again on 54 minutes following Chilvers’ pinpoint diagonal ball from the right to find Hartridge in space on the left flank. The full-back duly found Mann with his cross, and the frontman made no mistake as he accurately placed his shot into the bottom corner, rendering Puddy’s dive purely academic.
The Bluebirds attacked down the left through Zebroski two minutes later but none of his teammates were able to meet his dangerous cross, and City cleared their lines. The visitors’ task became more difficult in the 57th minute when a clumsy challenge on Pearson earned Rhys Tyler a second yellow card and, consequently, his side was left numerically disadvantaged.
Whilst Chippenham rallied for a short period, the hosts gradually took control forcing their opponents to defend deeply and rely on occasional forays forward. Mann’s shot from 20 yards was pushed round the post by Puddy at the expense of a corner, and Chilvers’ 68th minute drive was well over the crossbar.
At the other end, Dave Pratt crossed from the right but Zebroski nodded over Clarke’s bar, before the hardworking Frankie Artus was replaced by Louis Britton on 72 minutes. The pressure was steadily increasing on the Chippenham backline, and Puddy was forced into another diving save to push away Smith’s firm rising shot from 25 yards.
The breakthrough finally arrived after 78 minutes, as Raynes burst through the heart of the Town rearguard before emphatically finding the top corner of the net from 20 yards with the outside of his right foot.
Rigg fired high and wide of Clarke’s framework from outside the box, but Jerry Gill’s men held out comfortably for their win. Indeed, they could have stretched their lead in stoppage time when Mann ran the length of the pitch only for Puddy to palm his shot round the post, Smith then shot straight at the stopper and, finally, Britton saw his goalbound effort deflected away for a corner.
This was a highly charged and entertaining game between two local rivals, but City played the better football throughout and deserved their victory. Certainly, they showed their character once again by finding two equalising goals and, although they were undoubtedly assisted by the dismissal of Tyler, they always looked the more dangerous going forward. Chippenham played their full part but will, on reflection, undoubtedly rue Owen-Evans’ missed chance, and Clarke’s fine save, in the 38th minute which could have changed the whole complexion of the match. Bath will now travel to Hampton & Richmond Borough on Saturday looking to consolidate their league position.
City’s Line-Up: Clarke (c), Raynes, T Smith (Richards 85), Bowry, Artus (Britton 72), Mann, Watkins (Pearson 10), Chilvers, Brunt, Ball, Hartridge. Subs not used: Wiles-Richards, Stearn.
Scorers: City – Brunt (12), Mann (54), Raynes (78); Chippenham – Rigg (5), Owen-Evans (22)
City Bookings: Hartridge (18), Artus (27), Britton (77)
Officials: M Howes, A Berrow, O Spender